As proof of how small-town Tallahassee can be, Circuit Court Judge Angela Dempsey on Tuesday recused herself from hearing the lawsuit filed by Democrat Attorney General candidate George Sheldon against Gov. Rick Scott.
Sheldon is alleging that the governor has failed to report more than $200 million in assets on his state financial disclosure form in violation of the Florida Constitution. His lawsuit, filed two weeks ago, was assigned to Dempsey, appointed to the bench by former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Dempsey, however, had previously been represented by Scott's general counsel, Pete Antoncacci, on an ethics charge and Sheldon said that posed an inherent conflict of interest. Dempsey was charged with inflating her record in campaign documents and received a public reprimand by the Florida Supreme Court.
Sheldon, a former deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth, is running against Republican Pam Bondi, also noted that Dempsey's former husband, Hayden Dempsey, worked as legislative director for Scott early in his term.
"Plaintiff reasonably fears that, no matter how much the judge attempts to be completely fair and neutral in resolving all issues in this case, that there would be a natural bias or prejudice when the decision would have consequences to her personal life and in particular the relationship with both Judge Dempsey’s ex-husband as well as her children,'' wrote Don Hinkle, Sheldon's lawyer in the motion to recuse.
Dempsey agreed to the motion. No word yet on which judge has received the assignment in her place. Download Motion-Recuse Dempsey (1) (1)